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It’s not often that a gritty Mexican thriller can transcend borders and draw international attention, but Miss Bala produced by Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna is screaming for attention. Shedding light on the crumbling state of affairs in Mexico is contemporary director Gerardo Naranjo. Set in Mexico’s border city of Baja, Bala chronicles three terrifying days in the life of Laura (Staphanie Sigman), who falls in the hands of a sinister kingpin whose gang is notorious for terrorizing northern Mexico. Naranjo who wrote, edited and directed the film, uses Laura’s story as a metaphor to depict an entire country crippled by endless violence, poverty and corruption.
“My aim was to create a film that communicates a certain fear that I sense in the air,” Naranjo said in a studio release. “The question for me was how to create images that would recreate the smell of violence. The film had to talk through images. I distrust words…[they] can be meaningless and confusing. A Mexican talking about crime is like white noise for me.”
Mexico has long been known for its fraudulent government and drug cartels. In the past few years the country has experienced a staggering number of deaths and violence. Its current president Felipe Calderon has been the first government official to publicly stand up against the drug cartels, who manage a business that generates 25 billion dollars annually. Calderon’s defiant approach unleashed a massive wave of violence that to date has killed over 35,000 people, surpassing casualties of wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.
While promoting the film, out today in theaters across Mexico, Bernal and Luna stressed the importance of depicting Mexico’s current state of war.
“We have the active responsibility to show what is happening… [So that people can understand that] this isn't a natural thing, something common," said Bernal. “[The film] leaves your brain throbbing and it is important to find solutions to the very complex problem we're dealing with.”
Luna added, “I invite you all to stand with us in solidarity, in our cry against violence.”
The defunct social structures in Mexico have perpetuated a breeding ground for poverty and lack of education among the population. It’s estimated that over 30 million people over the age of 15 do not have basic reading, writing and math skills. It’s this shortfall that concerns Naranjo.
“I believe we Mexicans are a bit lost in the ignorance that comes from the infatuation with empty images from mass media. Mexico is a country that’s manipulated through TV, and education is based on soap opera…that’s why I think it’s important to create other mirrors to look at ourselves. Movies, however, operate at a higher level,” said Naranjo.
He’s not sure how Miss Bala will be received but there’s one thing he’s sure of and that’s his love for his craft and country.
“I think filmmakers create tapestries that show what life is like. I don’t know how the film will be received, or if it will change anyone’s understanding of the drug war, but I do know that I made it out of love for my country. There’s an energy here that I don’t find anywhere else, and I think [it’s because] Mexico has the best and the worst of life,” confessed Naranjo.
Miss Bala made its first appearance earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival to solid reviews. It’s scheduled to participate in the Toronto, New York and San Sebastian Film Festivals.